Ecotourism and Cultural Tourism in Cyprus – Opa!
Cyprus is a small island country in the Mediterranean Sea south of Turkey. Though a small country both in land and population, because of its location, Cyprus has been occupied by major powers throughout history: Hittites, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, and Ottomans. These occupations have led to Cyprus now being able to boast some major cultural attractions such as the Tomb of the Kings and the prehistoric village of Choirokoitia, which, along with ten of Cyprus’s church frescoes, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its present-day culture, a combination of Greek and Turkish influences, is also something that offers a lot to visitors.
Of course, as an island nation, a tourist can’t overlook Cyprus’s many beaches and associated watersports. Cyprus also is home to mountains – ever heard of Mount Olympus? But what else does this country offer that you might like? While sparse on easily-accessible-by-internet ecotourism activities, we recently found out about a couple of possibilities that offer travelers a glimpse into a Cypriot’s life and work and a chance to share with the local people while being able to appreciate the natural beauty of the country.
The Büyükkonuk Eco-Tourism Association has done a good job in gathering housing options and organizing the village to provide unique experiences to visitors. For example, some folks from the Delcraft craft and activity center in Büyükkonuk Village offer housing and various tours for those who wish to experience some of the past and current culture of the area. Possibilities include: cheese and bread demonstrations, donkey rides, nature trails, village festivals, and olive harvest. While still getting off the ground it seems and therefore a little less sophisticated, this effort reminds us of the Cinque de Terre tours we wrote about here.
Another option is CyprusVillages.com which also offers what they call agrotourism experiences:
- Fishing with a local fisherman
- Making Halloumi cheese by visiting a goat farm
- Picking oranges and olives
- Wine tasting and visits to wineries
- Cooking lessons
- Traditional Greek entertainment in a local tavern
We typically tend to steer clear of this type of experience with (what look like) larger companies because it seems too manufactured but it never hurts to place a call or communicate by email with the people offering these tours. In talking with them, you’ll be able to find out if it’s what you want or not.
Sometimes the best way to experience culture is to stay with a family or in a pension-type housing and just ask the owners or neighbors if they know of people you can talk with or who will take you on side trips. Because of the lack of options in Cyprus, this might be the perfect place to put this idea to the test. And you have to admit that traveling by donkey to a dairy to make and eat cheese with some local villagers seems like the perfect way to round out a trip to Cyprus’s beaches, mountains, cities, and cultural heritage and archaeological sites!